“In what can only be termed as a phenomenal effort with superb results for the recovery of wild quail, we are extremely proud to have the West Central Chapter and Quail Unlimited as an organization as a significant part of the quail habitat recovery in Missouri,” proclaimed Rocky Evans, President of QU. The Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), the strategy plan for quail recovery in the U.S., set restoration goals to bring the bobwhite back to 1980 levels and created a habitat goal of 13,420 acres of quail friendly habitat in Cass County. Since 2002, landowners in Cass County have created 15,324 acres, exceeding the target set for them.
“As we stopped to open a gate in the middle of several demonstration farms in the focus area in mid-June, we heard quail everywhere; two in the edge feathering from last year, two in the chop and drop on the waterway from a month ago, three in the buffer along the crop field, two in a renovated hedgerow along the buffer, two whistling across the road in a newly established buffer and, finally, about four whistling in a couple of downed tree structures which had been placed in the middle of the renovated native grass field. All of this happened in about 10 minutes on a single day which proves habitat management works,” excitedly stated Nick Prough, Regional Director of QU and an active participant in the hands-on work performed. QU, through its dedicated chapter members coast to coast, is leading the charge to restore the natural habitat of wild quail by working with private landowners, as well as state and federal agencies across the country with unprecedented partnerships. By putting on local events and fund-raisers, QU chapters raise conservation dollars that are then used for on-the-ground projects in their area.
Cass County is located in west central Missouri, where the West Central Chapter is very active. They used the MO Quail Habitat Initiative Program (QHI, a cooperative cost share program between the MDC and QU) to work on 6,350 acres, along with 7,322.8 acres of CRP acres established in native warm season grass seedings. Prior to 2002, Cass County farmland consisted of fescue pastures and crop fields with fescue field borders, brushy draws and fencerows that had grown into mature trees and overgrown fencerows. The amount of landscape now established to quail friendly practices is estimated to have doubled from less than 5 percent to 10 percent.
Hands-on projects leading to the population success on improvable agricultural areas included establishing miles of CRP field borders and filter strips, converting undesirable grass fields to native warm season grasses and wildflowers, restoring degraded prairie and creating miles of low-growing woody cover with edge feathering or shrub plantings. Today these areas provide the needed nesting, brooding and escape cover that were lacking in this intensively farmed area.
Tom Lampe, a participating landowner stated, “In the 1980s my farm harbored 10 coveys ( covey is considered to be 10 to 12 birds), but then over the years of stagnant habitat management, it declined to just two. Now, since I have begun to work on intensive habitat management and disturbance, I noticed eight coveys this fall”.
The guidance and leadership of the Missouri Department of Conservation in concert with other state and federal agencies and conservation partners like Quail Unlimited and the NWTF cannot be overstated. Ultimately, the success of the NBCI and other conservation efforts lies in the hands of dedicated landowners with an interest in restoring bobwhite and other wildlife habitat.
Quail Unlimited (QU) is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the restoration of habitat for wild quail and upland wildlife. Its almost 300 chapters nationwide raise local project dollars for on-the-ground projects, including private and public land management with banquets, auctions, sporting clay events and more. QU has a highly trained staff of biologists, state and regional directors and dedicated members that work with private landowners and state and federal agencies to restore quail and upland game populations. In the last 5 years, Quail Unlimited chapters and partners invested over $23.3 million dollars in quail and upland game habitat expenditures and improvements. For more information on QU, wildlife habitat and membership go to the website at www.qu.org.